LANTERN – Dimensions (2020)REVIEW

Blind and deaf to the thriving gnash of the seed’s wiry, flexuose growth ’til the surface tension of the next realm would wipe away all prior ignorance, two decades worth of wriggling through bone and flesh commences with the breaching worm’s sight set upon the stars. The worm, the bone and the flesh? Probably the fairly mediocre mid-90’s through mid 2000’s run of Finnish musician Cruciatus‘ first band Cacodaemon, a formative experience that’d been a miasmic pool of growth, therein developing primordial instinct and eventually linking his persistent work to the Death Thrashers Kuopio project which’d crash open gates for three key members toward the major gifts of Mausoleum Gate, Cadaveric Incubator, and the increasingly indomitable Lantern. Sure, adjust the timeline as you see fit, either way Lantern was Cruciatus‘ vision born circa 2007 within the caverns of blackened atmospheric schism, thrash metal force, and death’s spiraling madness — Ever channeling towards the ultimate Φ we arrive upon today with their third album, ‘Dimensions’. The sight upon the stars? Arguably a refinement of their previous full-length (‘II: Morphosis‘, 2017) but unarguably their finest work to date and a surprisingly present, deepest point of resonance with ‘Dimensions’ the quartet exit the cave and begin to rocket towards the sea of the night’s sky.

Flexuose growth, eh? The Lantern of today was envisioned in its most blurred yet evident form as early as 2008 on the band’s first demo (‘Virgin Taste of Damnation‘) where shadowy black metal dread and primitive death metal hits merged into shapeless, ambitious forms. A quick spin of the titular piece on the demo reveals a knack for ominous sci-fi ambient notions, there you’ll easily connect a song like “Virgin Damnation” to ‘Dimensions’ today. At this point Lantern were a duo and becoming a full band would entail some growing pains beyond that original vision but not until after the very underrated ‘Doom-Scrawls’ (2009) demo would become (‘Subterranean Effulgence‘, 2011) EP. This came during time where underground death metal in Finland was showing incredible promise between ‘old school’ death metal bands like Krypts, Ascended, Stench of Decay and Corpsessed so, many folks would end up lumping Lantern in with this movement despite their sound being quite different and arguably forward-thinking by comparison. When that first EP came out I’d made two observations, first was that vocalist Necrophilos‘ diction is remarkably clear and lands somewhere between Alchemist‘s ‘Lunasphere‘ record and Mithras‘ ‘Blessed are the Sick’ influenced voicing which I’ve seen likened to Vader among others over the years but works best in the context of ‘Worlds Beyond the Veil’ in my ears. Point being that a lot of what made the band special roughly a decade ago is not only still present today but emphasized in incredible ways on ‘Dimensions’ as they appear to shift in bolder strokes towards greater cosmic death attunement. The second observation was that they were one of the only bands (in my periphery at the time) doing so much to include elements of black, thrash, and death metal into their sound and that it’d been a sort of Deceased-esque effect where several wheelhouses were spinning at once, surely giving good enough reason that it took forever for ‘Below‘ (2013) and ‘II: Morphosis’ to sink in and hold their grip upon my mind.

‘Dimensions’ struck me immediately and assimilated with my own consciousnesses with great ease because I’d anticipated its warped reality would hit with great psychic sledge thanks to the ‘Lost Paragraphs‘ EP put out last year where in brief review I’d stated “I hear this band reaching for a further distinct sound and they generally are succeeding… If tracks like “Invocation of the Fathomless” are the future of Lantern then I am hugely optimistic as to what their eventual third album brings.” As it turns out that is where their sound was headed and beyond when ‘Dimensions’ materialized. Just as ‘Virgin Taste of Damnation’ was a promise of ‘Subterranean Effulgence’ to come, so was ‘Lost Paragraphs’ an omen for the quantum blast that is ‘Dimensions’. What has literally changed? To start, Necrophilos‘ accost engine is a bit stronger in terms of enunciation and performative gusto. Very slight effects, if any, add light trailing layers to the vocals helping to emphasize their presence without blurring the prominent barking presence of he, the celestial historian rambling curses of transcendence down upon us all. This bolder, louder, and unique approach to narrative voice is undoubtedly the first thing most folks already familiar with Lantern will notice yet it wouldn’t be long before my focus turned to the psychedelic mind-loosening shock-and-burst attack of the riffs power this record. Simpler and more powerfully stated beyond ‘II: Morphosis’, the great leap I would suggest ‘Dimensions’ takes forward is tied to compositional trimming for emphasis.

The 14+ minute span of “Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions” begs that we start at the end in praise of this great work. Flashes of thrash metal, rocket-fueled blackened death blasts, psychedelic death-riffs surges, and atmospheric ambiance a mile deep this song is perhaps Lantern’s entrance into the ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh’-level of creation where it becomes their definitive, cumulative “Invocation of the Continual One” statement, roaring and beasting its rip through all characteristic traits gathered in the span of thirteen years. The piece is not only a trip and an intoxicating wonder to behold but a major anchor for Side B, making a righteous and strong case that I’d flip the record over and spin it again. But, as you’ll soon gather notion of, in my mind there isn’t a failure of a song (and zero waste) within the six song tracklist. No pointlessly drawn out filler, no awkward sci-fi instrumental with spoken word samples, just blasting riff-warping old school blackened death metal entirely in its own world, ascending by virtue of morbid death’s magick. From the end to the beginning, “Strange Nebula” is the heart and the voice of Lantern arriving at an immediate and incredible point of realization, an infinite-sourced plateau state I’ve not witnessed since ‘On Strange Loops’ a few years back. Needless to say it took a single spin of ‘Dimensions’ to collapse over its black flame, hoping to be sacrificed into the apeiron it’d been yanked from.

The shift from forceful, angular riffing and mind-expanding melodic guitar lines that drive “Beings” unto the out of character voicing of “Portraits”, with its luminant clean vocals reminded me of Ghastly‘s second album (‘Death Velour’, my AOTY for 2018) from a couple years back where the chosen angles feel traditionally sourced between generations of rock and extreme metal music. This ended up being my favorite pairing of pieces on the album as they appear written to sew together, creating one thread while representing two different experiences. “Cauldron of Souls” is exciting for entirely different reasons, not only is it a bit of a climax on the full listen but the mid-paced space blasting from drummer J. Poussu recalls my favorite parts from Stench‘s ‘Venture’, an album that has aged so sweetly at this point. Beyond that the song is a showcase for how important the lead guitar work has become for Lantern‘s distinguished sound, they’ve nailed it with melodic passages that are relevant to the main rhythmic statement helping to wrap the mind up in these moments with some truly memorable intensity and patternation.

As the full listen became more familiar I’d start to see a lot of my favorite bands lining up nearby in my thoughts, an omen and a sign to bring a final strike towards acceptance of ‘Dimensions’ as a bit of an unlikely hero in the middle of 2020, risen to stature as some of the finest death metal released this year. I am immersed, transfixed, stomped and smacked by great pillars of unearthly brutality and disintegrated by bellowing, plasma-blasted beams of their world-eater’s digestive juices… Anyhow, it is a great album. Plenty of riffs, heady use of atmosphere and effects, distinct voice, and runs the gamut of the modern underground death metal experience before surpassing it. Highest recommendation possible, a must buy LP for 2020.

Highest recommendation.

Rating: 10 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records
RELEASE DATE:July 10th, 2020
BUY/LISTEN/STREAM:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRES:Death Metal

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